TIPS & More
They say a good publicist is like a marriage broker—someone who builds meaningful and lasting relationships with readers, literary agencies, publishers, executives, and book retailers. A good publicist is an author’s best friend—a consigliere—sometimes, we may not like what we hear, but it’s always best for the book.
So, what’s a bad agent like?—someone who, by laziness or unmindfulness, allows you to market your book without advising or helping you prep the basics—a reader’s mailing list or a metadata check.
Can I promote my book without setting up my reader’s mailing list?
Yes, you can! But skipping the basics is the bane of all marketing frustrations—and consequently, some authors would begin to doubt their books and talents for the lack of sales, contracts, or engagements.
If you’ve been promoting your book, you’ll understand this—that the financial costs exponentially go up if you keep doubling down on generic marketing.
But there is also an opportunity cost of not doing something.
You’ll incur both if you run a marketing campaign without properly setting up your reader’s mailing list.
A reader’s mailing list is considered a BIG thing by everyone—from the acquisition editors to the PR team of traditional houses—surprisingly, it is seldom talked about in the indie space. The mailing list is often misunderstood. Some authors would think it’s ’emailing everyone’—that is the common misconception. In its au naturel structure, the mailing list is about carefully ‘finding’ readers and funneling those who opted-in to the mailing list.
When we pitch to acquisition editors, almost always the first question we get is, how huge is the email list?
No matter how great the book is—the commercial viability of a book matters to a publisher—and the mailing list is one of the predictors of whether a book will have its commercial leg, or not.
A mailing list is vital for traditional publishers—for several good and logical reasons—it is a potent branding and book-selling tool their authors can have.
Publishers now view a robust mailing list as a direct line to potential readers. From a financial/marketing standpoint, authors with a sizable mailing list are an attractive prospect for publishers. A substantial audience can translate to immediate book sales upon release, providing a solid return on investment.
When a reader subscribes to a mailing list, they are basically signaling, “Yes, tell me more about your books,” “Yes, I want to know more about you,” and “Yes, I am interested in what you write.” Authors and publishers get more mileage out of a reader mailing list than expensive TV adverts (Cost-to-Sale ratio.) All conventionally published debut authors are tacitly required (for a good reason) to set up their reader’s funnel (traffic source) to grow and nurture their reader’s mailing lists—even bestselling authors maintain healthy reader’s mailing lists.
You’ll often find that a book is underperforming way below its potential, not because of its content, design, or how it was priced but because the author hasn’t found a way to find and funnel the right readers into the reader’s mailing list.
Building a reader’s mailing list is not a secret, but it seems it is because, in the indie space, not everyone is doing it.
Statistically, readers don’t buy books immediately after seeing an advert— they need to be reminded (at least 15-20 more times) why they must read the book—this is not unusual.
Readers have a memory like a goldfish—that is the psychographics of readers across all genres—the fond memories of any book marketing seen eight seconds ago will likely fade from their consciousness.
It means that if you’re promoting a book, your readers need to ‘see’ the adverts at least 15 times before they finally click read more or click purchase.
Technically, it means you need to re-run the advert 15 more times and spend 15x more of the planned marketing budget before a reader decides to engage with the book— now, that’s an expensive way of marketing a book and apparently not the wisest!
It is important to note that the reader’s engagement in this sense does not necessarily mean a purchase—it only means—a reader decided to ‘check’ on you or your book.
How important is a reader mailing list? Almost all authors who made it to the top of the chart have built a reader’s mailing list around their marketing—and those bestsellers you hear about over and over?—have their marketing people continually growing their mailing lists.
Your fellow authors who made it to the top of the chart are your friends—ask them what their ‘secret’ is, and they tell you about their mailing list.
All your marketing efforts should funnel the ideal readers into your reader’s mailing list; otherwise, your marketing will only prove costly and ineffective.
Building a reader’s mailing list is not as difficult as you think, but it is not a low effort either. If you want to learn how to build your mailing list, please click here to register, and we will send you the how-to guide, free-of-charge!
- Never start a marketing campaign without your mailing list.
- Statistically, readers don’t buy books immediately after seeing an advert— they need to be reminded (at least 15-20 more times) why they must read the book.
- Almost all authors who made it to the top of the chart have built a reader’s mailing list around their marketing.
Here are the top three reasons why every author needs to build their mailing list.
- Mailing list is measurable—the number of readers who opted-in and wanted to learn more about you and your book tells you what you should be doing in terms of marketing. All your ads or marketing should lead back and grow your reader’s list.
- A mailing list is a reader’s acquisition strategy—you can always reach out to your readers, engage with them and build their loyalty over time.
- Mailing List is most desired in the conventional setup—acquisition editors and the sales team of traditional publishers love to have a solid reader’s mailing list. No one can say no to great content with a solid/reliable reader’s mailing list.
- In promoting a book, remember there are two essential components; traffic and conversion. Traffic is commonly referred to as “generating visibility for the book,” and conversion is your goal(s), e.g., Is it sales you want? Is it hitting the bestseller list? Is it media interviews? Is it a speaking engagement? Is it getting a contract for your next book? Is it (movie) option?
- Knowing your goals (conversion goals) will help you understand how to promote your book and decide what type of marketing (traffic) to get. This is an important note to remember; your marketing (traffic) performance is not your goal. Your goals are not to get Facebook clicks and shares, YouTube views, or copies of your recorded online interviews. Remember what you want for your books.
- Knowing the differences between your marketing performance (traffic) and goals (conversion) will save your creative heart from disappointments.
Readers’ mailing list is an indispensable part of a book promotion. This is why, the usual first question you hear from acquisition editors is, how huge is your mailing list? An engaged list of fans or would-be readers is one of your greatest marketing and sales pitches for traditional publishers; of course, having a good book is a given. But if you want to build your reader’s mailing list (whether you have a small list of fans, a growing fanbase, or are starting from scratch), the most critical question is how to obtain your readers’ email addresses?
How do you collect the right email addresses? Because which ‘readers’ ( are they your readers? ) you have on your email list is just as important as how many you have. You need potential readers, not just anyone with an email account.
When you’re building a readers’ mailing list, you need to make sure three things are in place:
- You have a way to reach readers ( awareness through advertising ). If you’re wondering why some books sell and others don’t, it could be that they are only doing #1.
- You have a way to collect your reader’s emails ( landing page )
- They’re the right people ( funneling ). Click here to read more about book sales funnel.
And remember, you’re wasting your advertising budget if you don’t have numbers 2 & 3. Anything worth doing, is worth doing right!
So the next time you’re thinking of promoting your book, you’ll know what to look out for. Please tell us what you think about this article.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in August 2020. It has been updated and expanded.
Our Staff Section
Lex Tallis is a bestselling ghostwriter turned acquisition editor and author mentor. He is a publicist at The BookWalker.
The BookWalker, a book aggregator and marketing agency, has been helping emerging authors to New York Times bestsellers secure media coverage with top media outlets since 2010.
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